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Distant Waves is a novel using the RMS Titanic as much of its setting. It is not a story completely of the Titanic, it mixes fiction with real people that were alive during the Titanic era.
A girl named Jane Taylor lives with her mother and four other sisters (Mimi, Amelie, Emma, and Blythe). Her mother, Maude, is a medium. They live in America in the late 19th century. Jane's father has recently died of Smallpox, and her mother is in grief.
One day, they go to a park to meditate, and Mimi & Jane go for a walk. Their mother decides to go to a little place named Spirit Vale. They soon take a train to New York city when, suddenly, the ground starts splitting apart and shaking. An earthquake starts, buildings start shaking and Mimi gets a bad headache. But a man named Nikola Tesla rescues them, and they watch him smash a small device. He explains that he has been destroying things and this earthquake machine is one of his ideas. He believes that everything vibrates and at different frequencies, you can travel between time and different worlds. They are amused. Tesla becomes Jane's ultimate role model and collects newspaper clippings about him over the years. Maude moves them to Spirit Vale, where they are going to stay at the inn for a bit. The inn is already fully booked, but, Maude "contacts" the husband of the inn's owner, Aunty Lily, and she lets them stay.
When they stay in Spirit Vale Maude opens a business where she "contacts" the spirits and practices the movement known as Spiritualism. There she changes everyone's name to Oneida Taylor. Maude becomes very well known and is the center and buzz of Spirit Vale. Everyone comes to see her and get readings and many other things. As the years pass many more things are added to her sign outside the home they share. They soon move out of the hotel and into their own house.
In 1911, Mimi and Jane run away to New York City, where Jane falls in love with Thad who is Tesla's assistant. Mimi gets a job as a companion to a wealthy French woman, Ninette, and she goes to travel with her to Europe. As Jane boards her train to return to Spirit Vale, Thad learns that Jane is only 16, 4 years younger than him. He doesn't write to Jane like he promised her. Jane gets very sad over Mimi's departure and Thad. Maude is devastated and blames Jane for running away with Mimi and her departure.
After Mimi has been gone for a while, she finally contacts her family while they are in London, England for a spiritual convention for mediums, psychics, etc. It is there that it is proven that the twins, Amelie and Emma, have their mother's gift of being able to speak to the dead after having Queen Victoria speak to Conan Doyle. Mimi reveals that she is going to be sailing on the Titanic, and Blythe wants to go with her. After much convincing, she is allowed to go. Mimi is in first class, and Blythe is in second class.
When W.T Stead predicts that the Titanic will sink and Mimi and Blythe are on it. Jane, Amelie, and Emma get on it to try to talk them into getting off of the boat when Jane bumps into Thad, who is on the ship with Tesla. He is overjoyed to see her, and he tells her he made a mistake in not being with her.Jane, Amelie, and Emma are convinced the ship won't sink, so they stay on. Mimi announces that she will be having her wedding on the Titanic to her mistress's butler.
Just before the wedding, Thad reveals to Jane that he loves her. She feels the same way, and Mimi is happy for her sister.
During the wedding, Tesla wants to show off his newest invention. It's supposed to break ice. Jane recognizes it as the earthquake machine. When he used it, it malfunctioned and the rudder cracks. This causes the rudder to not function properly and the iceberg to hit the ship. They start telling people to get on life boats. They realize that Amelie is missing, so Mimi, Jane, Emma, and Thad go looking for her. Tesla tells Thad and Jane to follow him. He says he has an invention that could save everyone. It's a time machine. Mimi finds Jane in the bottom of the ship with Tesla and Thad. She tells her to get on the lifeboats, but she stays.
Tesla's machine partly works and Jane finds herself in the water. She sees a floating chair and she gets on it. She finds Amelie and Emma in the water. Tesla helps them up onto the overturned table he was on. Mrs. Brown's life boat spots them and they pulled Emma and Amelie on board. Emma dies of hypothermia. Amelie had two broken legs and frostbite on her toes. Nobody can find Mimi or Thad. Amelie goes to the hospital. She starts to talk, but says that Emma is talking. Jane recalls Emma saying "I won't leave", just before she dies.
Two years pass by. Mimi and Thad, though no bodies were found, are said to have drowned. Jane, now 19, gets a job as a reporter. She sees a picture on a newspaper of two people that survived the sinking of the Titanic in the water all these years. Jane thinks they look like Thad and Mimi. She begs her boss to let her do this story, and he lets her. She goes to them and finds that they are Mimi and Thad. When they were in the time machine, it didn't send them a couple minutes into the future, it sent them a couple of years. Although to everyone else, Mimi and Thad had been gone years, to them it only seems like a few minutes. They all get on a train, and Jane reluctantly tells Mimi that her husband is dead. Jane, Thad, and Mimi ride back home together, where the book ends.